Actions that Help Us Develop are Achievable

by Jul 25, 2019Coaching, Goals, Organizational & Workplace Learning, Reflective Practice4 comments

Today is part 3 of my 5-part series on SMART Goals, those that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. While basic information abounds on what they are and how they are used, there are few resources for how to write and apply them as professional development goals. This application is the focus of this series.

Goals should be Achievable

Do you get inspired to do the impossible?

Ever jump out of bed before your alarm, thrilled that today is the day you finally read all of Proust in a single sitting?

How about quitting your job because you simply know that Powerball tonight is yours?

Perhaps you take a detour to Home Depot because, in their former tagline, “You can do it. We can help,” you really believe you can replace all your bathroom fixtures, including the new tile floor, tonight after dinner and before the game.

May sound doable in our minds, but we know some things are possible, and some things are not.

Welcome to the world of goals that are Achievable! Yes, this means that goals are doable given. the skills and resources that they call for. You can start Proust . . . doable. You buy a lottery ticket. You can even pick up a new toilet, but when you realize you have neither the knowledge nor the skills to install it, then you reach for the expert. That then becomes an achievable goal today for that plumber.

Achieveable vs. Impossible

You may have heard of stretch goals, yes? Those that are not only challenging, but especially difficult. and novel. They can be useful when thought-through, though the key to any goal is that it is possible. If it were impossible, why try it, as you know it will not work.

The key for using them is to think about a goal that requires enough effort that it really is an achievement when it is done, while not so difficult that it can become demoralizing. Or worse, one that we accept yet we know it is really impossible for us given our experiences and resources.

Hey, I love Proust, buy lottery tickets, and have carried into the house a new toilet. All those are doable, yet few would call those steps an achievement of any sort.

Putting Achievable into Practice

Let’s visit our ongoing colleagues, and see how they can make use of this next step.

Thomas, the Research Assistant

Thomas, the research assistant, who wants to advance his career and manage staff, is afraid of confrontation and the interpersonal burdens from managing staff. He decides to enroll in his organization’s management knowledge and skills-based training program (specific) and implement 3 things he learns (measurable based on some tangible criteria he works out with his boss who sends him for it). What makes it achievable is because it is the right course for what he needs, coming at the right time (not the day before vacation or the week he gets sick). 

The course and plan is achievable because Thomas really can do it and grow in the process, though it is not one that will cause him injury of any sort beyond that which comes from personal development.

Marcy the Middle Manager

Marcy, the middle manager, wants her boss’s position after he retires, and knows she needs to learn to effectively manage remote staff. As she started working with her mentor, the mentor suggested she read some articles and then engage in realistic role-play that simulates some of the challenges that she will likely face.

To simulate the learning, the mentor suggests they meet on video-conference instead of in-person, to allow for more of a realistic simulation across areas such as communication, trust, and productivity. This is achievable in a short period of time, which is really all that Marcy has to prepare for the confidence she needs to apply for the position.

Andy the Senior Director

Andy, the senior director, wants to work on his workaholic boundary issues so he can spend more time with his family. He does this through a 7-day medication program he agrees to try, one that involves 5 minutes a day.

This may not seem like a big deal, but to silence all the media devices, clear his mind of who at the call center should be doing what right now, and maintain this for a week is not an easy task for somebody who has never done this before. However, it is a reasonable first step given the major changes that Andy hopes to eventually accomplish.

Five minutes a day for a week is achievable. Going immediately to an hour a day . . . less so.

Goals that are Specific, Measurable, and Achievable

Our three colleagues here have their own specific goals that are measurable and achievable. Tomorrow, we will explore them to see if they are really Relevant.


  1. Karine Galland

    This is so true Jeffrey! Awareness about your own motivating and overwhelming goals is the key to success!

    • Jeffrey Keefer

      I agree completely. In fact, I think that personal motivation is one thing that can be overlooked if using a standard SMART model. In this way, achievable seems to involve the personal motivation to make this happen when compared to the goals being set by one’s boss or externally.

      Thanks for the comment!

  2. Scott Maderer

    It’s so true that motivation is important. So is setting up the underlying structure of habit and routine that make things work…that’s why working with an accountability partner (like you as a coach) can help so much…

    • Jeffrey Keefer

      Thanks for the comment Scott, and I agree with you completely on this one! Motivation and habit structure help us on what is important to us, and those often help us identify the larger goals that we want to structure in a SMART way!


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

About Me

Jeffrey M. Keefer, Ph.D., is an educational consultant, institutional researcher and accreditation officer in higher education, professor of research methodology, nonprofit capacity building and strategic planning consultant, talent development coach, spiritual life advisor (chaplain) at New York University, spiritual director, and Wikipedian.